Nice is full to the brim with incredible restaurants and beautiful tiny boutiques, so there are no shortages of places and ways to spend your money.
I'm terrible at watching my spending when I travel so I was intrigued (and a little frightened) to track my budget over a long weekend in the south of France. This money diary covers the first four days of a longer group holiday road-tripping around the Côte d'Azur.
Flights: €160.28 return with Aer Lingus (flying from Dublin into Nice and out of Marseille)
Accommodation: €110 for Airbnb (this was my portion, total cost was split between the group)
Car rental: €93.40 (for the four days of this money diary). This includes insurance and a refill of the tank
On the ground
3pm: I land in Nice airport and head into the city centre to meet my friends who arrived yesterday. The tram costs €1.50 to Magnan. I picked up water, an orange and a chicken baguette (€4.05) for lunch at a corner shop while I wait on the promenade for my friends, enjoying the heat and the sparkling sea. I will fill up this water bottle for the rest of the holiday so I’m not creating more plastic waste.
5pm: Our apartment is in the Libération neighbourhood. We opt to leave the car here for the next couple of days as driving and parking in Nice is a nightmare and crack open a bottle of rosé my friends arrived with. I’m not normally a rosé drinker, but it’s a speciality of Provence and perfect for the heat. Our Uber cancels so we stroll into the old town. It takes nearly an hour but we walk on the promenade, catching up and taking in the sights.
7.30pm: After exploring the old town we decide to stop for a drink. Using the Guides app, I lead us to Les Distilleries Idéales and we all order another glass of rosé (€3.89). There are no seats left outside but we don't mind sitting inside next to a very fat, very happy sleeping pub cat.
9pm: On a recommendation from a friend, we go to a wine bar called L’Autre Part near the port for dinner. Staff are really friendly and kindly explain the menu after clocking our poor French skills. We all order a glass of different red wine, then go on to order a bottle of Beaujolais. We order a charcuterie board, pâté, pork rillette, saucisson, hummus and so much bread the staff are a bit concerned. We split the bill at the end and, with tip, it comes to €39 each. We grab an Uber afterwards which costs €6 each.
8.30am: I’m up bright and early with the excitement of holidays, leaving everyone else to sleep in a bit. I wander through Libération, passing through the market full of flowers and food. Further towards the centre I settle on Fleur Cafe for breakfast as it has outdoor seats in the sun. After the French breakfast of coffee, croissant, fruit, toast and juice (€11.50), I wait for my friends to arrive and have another cappuccino while reading.
12pm: We spent the morning strolling around, and after visiting the beach, statues, parks and some of the old town, we’re in the mood for food. I’ve heard the restaurants on Cours Saleya can be tourist traps but after doing some research we take a chance on Le Safari which has a great view of the Saturday market. I order a Nicoise salad and a big glass of rosé. At least, I think I do. My poor French combined with the cheap wine prices mean I’ve ordered a bottle instead. We happily drink my mistake, basking in the sun and atmosphere and split the bill (€26).
1.30pm: After popping into the nearby DZ Galerie (free), browsing through some of the boutiques and admiring the architecture, we’re tempted by the unbelievable spread of ice-cream flavours in Fenocchio. I go for one scoop of passion fruit sorbet and one of cappuccino and they’re both amazing (€5).
3pm: We meander towards and around the port and decide it’s time for some people-watching. We park ourselves outside La Shounga. Two of my friends order a late lunch while I get two small beers (€8).
5pm: On the move again and we decide to walk up to the hilltop park of Colline du Château. On top there’s an artificial waterfall and stunning views of the Nice beach. On our way back down it's time for more people-watching! We sit outside a beach bar called Topaze to watch the world go by and I order a coffee to revive myself, and afterwards have another small beer (€7).
8.30pm: We arrive for dinner at La Femme du Boulanger, which we booked earlier on a friend's recommendation. I opt for the full French experience tonight, ordering duck a l’orange followed by crème brûlée, sharing a bottle of Malbec with a friend. We split the bill and, with tip, it comes to €45. We’re all stuffed and stroll home to try and walk it off. All the incredible food and wine today has made it expensive and given me an undignified attack of hiccups, but it was worth it all.
10am: Beach day! We hop in the car and head to Antibes for the day. Myself and my other friend split up; he buys lunch at the supermarket (bread, meat, cheese, hummus, crisps) and I go to the nearby boulangerie for coffee, croissants and pain au choc for four people. It works out at €5 each.
11am: We pass a toll and I pay this one (€1.60).
12pm: After another nightmare finding parking, we’re at the beach. We’re tempted by the fancy loungers and umbrella for the shade so pay €20 each for the day. However, they’ve asked us not to eat our food there as there’s a restaurant on site so when we get hungry later we walk to the promenade and make sandwiches there, before heading back. Later in the afternoon another friend joins us straight from the airport and now our group is five people.
6pm: Back in Nice and we find a car park that is free on Sundays. We go wild and buy a €4 bottle of rosé in the supermarket next door to drink on the balcony while getting ready for dinner. With a craving for seafood, we walk down to Cafe de Turin. Some of my friends try the famous seafood platter, while I split two of the daily dishes with another friend; a scallop linguini and sole with risotto. We order a giant bottle of rosé for all five of us and split two desserts; a chocolate mousse and an incredible and unusual hazelnut fondant with salted caramel ice-cream. My portion with tip comes to €40.
9pm: After merrily getting lost for a bit in Nice’s old town, we get a drink in Shapko. There’s live jazz on and it’s very cool and atmospheric. I get a small beer for €5. Afterwards we share an Uber back to the apartment (€6) to pack our bags ready to move tomorrow.
9am: We’re on the move today to go hiking in Gorges du Verdon and another person is arriving tonight, so first we drive to the airport to collect a bigger rental car. We breakfast in the car on some pastries my friend bought and leftovers from our beach food yesterday. Tolls are €5.
12pm: We stop en route in a town called Draguignan which is famous for its military history. It’s pretty but, as seems common in the south of France this time of year, there is lots of construction. After a wander, we sit down outside Cafe Des 2L for an early lunch. I have a gorgeous coffee and chicken caesar salad that comes to €20 including tip.
2pm: We arrive at the starting point just outside Quinson for the hike of the lower Gorges du Verdon. There is a small roadside cafe so we order a drink while waiting for the other car to catch up. I get a Coke Zero and it’s €2.60.
5.30pm: The hike took about three hours and was absolutely stunning (and free!) I’m glad we waited until after the hottest part of the day to start, it wasn’t too challenging apart from one short but very steep climb. We snacked on crisps left over from the day before en route. Afterwards we went back to the cafe next to the cars and I had another Coke Zero, followed by another small beer (€5). Then we’re in the car again for the next part of our trip through the French Riviera.
The final tally
Overall spend: € 271.14 + flights (€160.28) + accommodation (€110) + car rental (€93.40) = €634.82
Notes: The car rental bumped up the pre-trip spending a lot and wouldn't be normal expense for a weekend break. There are plenty of brilliant shopping opportunities in Nice if you fancy a wander in the boutiques but I prefer to just sit and take in the atmosphere so all my money went on food and drink, which I didn't find as expensive as I anticipated. Because it was a group trip, everybody brought their Revolut card which made it super simple to split bills and helped keep track of spending too.
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